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Full text of "The harper & the king's horse;"

HARPER 

&-THE 
KINGS 

HORSE 



THE HARPER AND THE KING'S 
HORSE 



HARPER 



HOR 




>> ^^ ^fc i *- qjsy^ 

ATALE 
PAY/C 
ERSKINE 

BLVE 
SKY PRESS 
CHICAGO 



Copyright, 1905, by 
The Blue Sky Press 



CANTO I. 

THE KING'S PROMISE 



2021349 




The King's Promise 

NCE long ago, now 

many a year 
Hath come and passed 

away, 
There lived in Merrie 

England dear, 
A merrie king who 

loved good cheer 
And jolly company. 
A nodding plume of 

the bonnie broom 
He wore in his helmet high ; 
And a goodly horse the good King rode 
As ever was by king bestrode. 
Quoth he with laughing eye, 

"Who dares to steal this horse of mine, 
I swear by the broom, a goodly sign, 

And I care not who he be 

So he rideth royally 
Who dares to steal this horse, "quoth he, 
"And lead him forth past guard and groom, 
Past locks and bars, from his stall of stone, 
And doeth the same to all unknown, 
I promise him true by the bonnie broom 

He shall forgiven be, 
And more, a goodly estate shall win 

If he ride him back to me. 



The Harper & The King's Horse 

"For to mount yon steed I count no sin, 
If any man dare, "quoth the merrie king, 

"But heark ye well, " quoth he, 

"There hangs a penalty; 
Who e'er be caught in the thieving act, 

It mattereth not to me, 
On his bare thief's back shall he be well 
thwacked, 

And his head shall severed be, 
And shall hang in the market place on high, 
Where every curious passer by, 

Or gaping clown may see." 

Then a shout went round the groaning 

board, 

For dined well had he, 
And every courtier slapped his thigh, 
And rocked and laughed and winked 

his eye, 

And said with many an indrawn sigh, 
"How merrie the king can be." 



10 



CANTO II. 

THE HARPER AND THE HERMIT 




The Harper flgf The Hermit 

CROSS the border, in 

fair Scotland, 
Away from the busy 

town, 
/A harper wandered, harp 

in hand, 

And sang with head 
cast down. 

His hair was gold in the 

morning sun, 
His cheek like the rose was red, 
But his heart was sad, and the song he sung 
Would have raised the sleeping dead. 

The hawk swooped low, the trout leaped 
high, 

The beasties all drew near, 
The hermit telling his beads passed by, 

That harper's song to hear. 

His voice was clear as the convent bell, 
Sweeter than bird notes shrill, 

His harp twanged strong to his wondrous 

song, 
And rang from hill to hill. 

The hermit smiled, for he knew full well 
Such song was not in vain, 



*3 



The Harper & The King's Horse 

That it's sad, sweet power, and it's magic 

spell, 
Were drawn from a soul in pain. 

"Come hither harper fair, I pray, 

Why sing where none may hear ? 

The busy town is far away, 
Thy purse is light I fear." 

"Why leave the court and merrie jest, 
Where fair maids' hearts be won? 

What seek ye on the mountain crest, 
From morn till set of sun?" 

"I sing nor neither gain nor gold, 

I sing not for renown. 
I better love these cragies bold 

Than yonder busy town. 

"I sing for love of all sweet things 

Beneath the skies above. 
Betide me weal, betide me woe, 

I sing alone for love. 

"A maid dwells in a Scottish tower 
More fair than tongue can tell. 

I met her in her rosy bower, 
In faith I love her well. 



The Harper & The Hermit 

"I wooed her in her shaded bower, 

This maid of high degree, 
Alas! high in her father's tower, 

She weeps for love of me." 

The hermit laughed until he shook. 

"Beshrew my soul!" cried he, 
"Go wed the lass with bell and book. 

Since so she loveth thee." 

"Nay! Nay! not so!" the harper cried, 
"Such gladness may not be; 

Her father is a man of pride 
Who loves not minstrelsie. 

"He sweareth loud, with curse and frown, 
Who hath nor gold nor land, 

Let him be knight or king or clown, 
He shall not have her hand." 

"Now well a day! and by my troth! 

I'm loth to see thee sad. 
Go steal the king's horse Browne forth, 

Like any honest lad, 

"And win the wager of the king 

To get the gold and land, 
Then buy a bonnie golden ring, 

And claim the maiden's hand." 



The Harper Sf The King's Horse 

"Yea! that were well," the harper cried, 

"But if I lose my head, 
I lose beside my bonnie bride. 

How then shall I be wed?" 

The hermit stroked his beard. "I think 
I've heard it said," quoth he, 

"A nod is good as any wink 
To a horse that cannot see. 

"Within a paddock near the town, 
There feeds a sleek, roan mare, 

And by her side a colt, nut brown, 
She loves with mother's care. 

"Now I will set a wonder forth 

That well may make thee stare. 

Go ride the roan to south or north, 
Full forty miles from there, 

"Nay fifty, or a hundred, still, 
Her mother love her guide, 

She'll find again that grassy hill, 
And the brown colt at her side. 

"Now hast thou wit, or hast thpu none, 
Love speed thee well, I think 

Thou'lt take a ride, and win a bride, 
Let this be nod, or wink." 



16 



The Harper & The Hermit 

The harper paused and shook his head, 
He shook it once and twice, 

Then laughed he long, and laughed 

Tie loud, 
But did not shake it thrice. 

"I thank thee well, kind priest," he cried, 
"Both nod and wink I see, 

And I will ride and win my bride, 
My maid of high degree." 



CANTO III. 
THE WAGER 



The 




HAT night to busy 
Strivling town, 

The harper musing, has- 
tened down, 
And there that night 
he played 

For dame and squire, and 
capering clown, 

For knight, and blushing 
maid. 



"Again! again!" with might and main 
The listeners cry, "Again the strain, 

Good Harper ! harp and sing: 
Thou singest sweeter than a bird. 
Such harping sure was never heard 

By courtier or by king 
As thine." Again he twanged the string, 
And made the neavy rafters ring 

In answer to the song. 
Then to Sir Charles, Sir Roger spake, 

A doughty knight and strong, 

"Before such music I could make 
On harp or viol, lyre or lute, 

Fd sooner steal the king's horse Browne 
Than I'd attempt to do't." 



21 



The Harper 5f The King's Horse 

"Yea!" quoth Sir Charles, "to crack a crown, 
To wield a sword, or sack a town, 

Were easier for me. 
I'd sooner ride o'er hill and down, 
Good harper, on the king's horse Browne, 

Than I would harp with thee." 

"Ye speak me fair," the Harper cried, 

While twinkled merrilie 
His clear blue eye. "And I will ride 
To gay Carlisle, through Strivling town, 
Well mounted on the King's horse Browne, 

What will ye wager me?" 

"Five plows of land," Sir Roger cried, 
"That in Scotland ye may abide 

Whene'er it pleaseth thee." 
"Five thousand pounds in good red gold," 
Sir Charles replied, "that thou may'st hold 

Wherewith to make merrie. 
If thou dost win thou ne'er shall lack 
A velvet doublet to thy back 

Nor goodly companie. 
"Yet have a care!" cried they, "Beware the 
penalty." 

"Farewell! Farewell!" the harper cried, 

"I take the wager down. 
Mayhap e'er next we meet, I ride 



22 



The If^ager 

Like any knight, well set astride 

The merrie King's horse Browne. " 

"Beshrew my heart! I fear he'll do't." 

Then spake Sir Charles' dame, 
"I would ye had not set him to't 

With greater hope of gain." 
"Good lack! he'll lose his curly head 
If he doth try," a maiden said, 

"Pray call him back again." 
"Nay! Nay!" Sir Roger cried, "let be! 
A canny shrewd head waggeth he. 

In faith, sweet lass! he'll win." 



CANTO IV. 

THE KING'S HUNT 




The King 's Hunt 

ROM gay Carlisle, one 
fair, bright morn, 

With noise of whoop, 
halloo, and horn, 

With baying hounds, 
with squire, and knight, 

And courtiers gay, and 
dames bedight, 

With nodding plumes, 
and costumes bright, 
Of gold, and green, and royal blue, 
And copper lustre, crimson hue, 
And silver cord and tassels, whew ! 
A gayer sight ye ne'er shall view 
Than when king Harry rode to hunt 
On prancing Browne, with fat Sir Blunt 
Beside him on a steed of blackl 
But when at eve they ambled back 
Ye should have seen the crowd, good lackl 
For all were fagged, and mud bespattered, 
And some gay gowns were sadly tattered. 
Some lagged behind with sorry pace 
As they were losers in the race; 
But good King Hal is merrie still, 
For did not he the great stag kill? 
(Ah, noble deed to quench it's life) 
Success rides well, whatever the strife. 

"Up, warder, ho! fling wide the gate. 
The king and all his cortege wait." 
27 



The Harper Sf The King's Horse 

The gay king cried, "The steward call. 
Sweet dames, be not so sorry all. 
Beshrew a pack of frowning jades! 
Ride on and seek your tiring maids, 
Then meet us in the banquet hall 
With sparkling eyes to grace a feast, 
Where, look ye, yonder doughty beast 
Shall feed ye well in any case, 
For leading of ye such a chase. " 

The servants flew like hens beheaded, 
The stag they dressed, the onions shredded, 
And fires were built, and cranes were hung, 
And roasts and joints, were quickly swung, 
With each a boy to baste and turn, 
Lest any of the meat should burn. 
The cook grew red and hot and flurried 
As round his heels the scullions scurried. 

At last with much of din and clatter, 

The feast was set, 
Around the board with merrie chatter 

The guests were met. 
Upon a huge old brazen platter 

Before the king 
The antlers of the stag were spread, 

With oak leaves green 
Bedecked, and dangling ribbons red. 

Thus be it seen 
How fall the mighty. Thus the pride 

28 



The King's Hunt 

The glory of the forest died, 

Ignobly severed bone from bone, 

To grace a feast; the cook alone 

Was praised, who served the gravies hot; 

He, and the king who sent the shaft 

That laid the mighty monarch low, 

King, against king. 

"What, steward, ho! 
Why silent is our banquet hall? 
Where are the pipes? The fiddlers call!" 
Burst forth King Hal. With cringing pace 
The steward came. "An't please your 

Grace, 

The players all are gone to bed 
As drunk as loons," the steward said. 
"They played their pieces out of tune, 
And swore the hunt was o'er at noon." 
Enraged King Harry stamped his feet. 
"Go turn those players in the street! 
'An't please my grace!' I'll teach thee, Lout! 
To please my grace when I am out. 
Thou'st let them at my casks, I see, 
And thou shalt pay the penalty." 
But e'er these angry words were spoken, 
The silence of the hall was broken. 
Without, a strain rose loud and clear. 
"The harper of the hills is here," 
Then called aloud 
The listening crowd. 



The Harper & The King's Horse 

"Now that's well said!" exclaimed the king. 
"We'll hail him. He shall harp and sing 
To help us merrie make withal." 
Then from the balcony King Hal 
Called loudly to the harper man, 
"Hither good Bard, dost know thy king? 
It is our will ye harp and sing 
For us, within our banquet hall. 
Thy merrie music's all we lack 
To give a relish to our sack." 
"Yea Sire," he doffed his bonnet blue, 
"I am your subject, leal and true. 
Your will, good sire, and mine are one, 
But I have rode since rise of sun. 
Behold my good roan hangs her head; 
First, I would see her stalled and fed. 
The kindly man you'll own, at least, 
First shows his kindness to his beast." 

"Well said! Well said!" King Harry cried. 
"Go call my grooms! She shall be tied 
Within the best stall in my stable 
Beside my Browne." Then back to table 
Sped king and guests. 

In walked at last 

The harper, and his clear eye cast 
From end to end of the vast hall; 
As with his long arm reaching out 
He struck his harp, and forth a rout 
Of merrie notes leaped, upward glancing, 

3 



The King's Hunt 

They filled the hall, and gaily dancing 
Dissolved in melodies entrancing; 
Then softer echoes sighed and trembled, 
Among the listening guests assembled. 
Ahl well he played, that harper man. 
He sang the sorrows of his clan, 
Of Scotland's woe and dire disaster, 
Of England's glory and her Master. 
Then, as his notes flew fast and faster, 
Of war, of pleasure and of love, 
Then of the chase, then loud above 
The sound of voices and of laughter, 
With mountain thunders shook each rafter; 
Then dropping to a smoother measure, 
He still played on, at his own pleasure, 
Till, striking low, soft, slumberous chords, 
He slowly played. The drunken lords 
Grew drousy, and the monarch's head 
Began to nod, and to his bed 
Each guest retired as he was able, 
While some lay sprawled beneath the table. 
Then in the servants came in hordes, 
From cook to grooms of the king's stable 
Devoured the feast and cleared the boards, 
And drank the wine as they were lords. 
Alas! Alas! for human kind, 
They drank till they were deaf and blind. 
The harper smiled and played and waited 
Until the last drunk loon, belated, 
With limp limbs hanging, snored aloud. 

3* 



The Harper 6f The King's Horse 

Ignoring then the motly crowd 
He from the girdle of the groom 
Deftly withdrew the keys, the room, 

He quitted, 
And in the great lock of the stable 

The great keys fitted. 
Within the darkness black as sable 
Stood Browne, the lordly horse, and there, 
Fast by his side the sleek roan mare. 
He bridled them and saddled them, 
And tied their reins together, 
And on the highway started them 
With neither bar nor tether. 
"Now go your way!" the harper cried 
As off they galloped side by side. 
"Now go your way my gentle roan. 
I wot you '11 not soon parted be, 
So both will have good companie. 
For me, I '11 in and lay me down, 
For sleep is sweet to king or clown. " 
But first he locked the stable door 
And placed, as they had been before, 
Within the dull groom's girdle brown 
The ponderous keys: " 'Tis well," quoth he 
"That since the good king's horse is gone 
The door should fastened be." 



CANTO V. 
THE SEARCH 



oon>t a ba^ofgodb j^piwt, 





The Search 

N merrie Carlisle, at the 
court of the King, 
Had happened a won- 
derful, marvelous 
thing. 
You never did see what 

a tumult was there. 
The grooms were all 
running and tearing 
their hair. 

They searched all the 
stables, through yard, loft and stair, 
In highways, in byways, in paddock and lane 
They blustered and shouted and hunted 

in vain. 

The servants all scurried as they were insane, 
Each housemaid or scullion, groom, cook 

or valet, 

For why? the King's horse had been 
stolen away. 

'Twas an uncanny trick, and it savored of 

magic, 
'Twould be sure in the sequel to prove 

something tragic, 
For there hung the keys at the side of the 

groom, 
Each marked with the sign of the helmet 

and broom. 



35 



The Harper & The King's Horse 

As wan as a ghost just out of his tomb 

He shivered and shook, and declared 
'twas a witch, 

A sprite or magician, he couldn't tell which, 

Else how could the horse through the key- 
hole be drawn; 

For, with no other opening, this must be 
the case, 

As plain to be seen as the nose on your face. 

Spite of locks, bars and bolts, the king's 
horse was gone. 

At last the king rose 
And put on his clothes, 
And bathed his red eyes 
And his cherry red nose. 
With a frown on his brow 
He drank his "red sherry," 
For even a monarch 
Can't always "be merry." 
He was moody and cross, 
And he called for his horse 
(His breakfast they brought 
As a matter of course). 

The servants all shook with a terrible awe 
When a frown on the brow of King Harry 

they saw. 
They said without doubt that the groom 

would be hung, 

36 



The Search 

That they all would be beaten or have 
their necks wrung, 

Or be ordered away 
With no farthing of pay. 
Alas! and alack! 
What a terrible day! 

So gathered together in knot and in ring, 
They beckoned and whispered, "this 

terrible thing! 
Oh, what man among them would dare 

tell the king?" 
When just at this juncture the harper 

appeared, 
It was marvelous then how fast the sky 

cleared. 

With his keen ready wit and sunshiny face, 
For to break the ill news just the man 

for the place. 

So close at his heels, like a parcel of eels, 
Or school of red herring the fisherman 

deals, 
They followed the harper, and straight 

to the king 
He led the procession the story to bring. 

Now all in the dead of the darksome night, 
When dread spirits roam in a sulphurous 
light, 



37 



The Harper & The King's Horse 

When gray warlocks dance and witch 

fires burn low, 

Some rogue of a thief had entered, and lo! 
The king's horse was gone and the sleek 

roan also. 

Then loud the king spake, till the cour- 
tiers all quailed, 
He swore at the grooms, at the servants 

he railed, 
He thundered his orders till breath and 

words failed. 
"Nay Sire," quoth the harper, "this 

trouble is mine, 
Since every good steed in the country 

is thine, 
And all the green pastures from here to 

Landsend; 
Hence if he be found, more the matter 

to mend, 

He'll IDC found, it is plain, 
On thine own fair domain, 
While for me I may ne'er see 

my good roan again." 

Then down on his knees the bold harper 

man fell, 
And besought for the grooms and the 

servants right well 
Of the king clemency. 
"I have heard said" quoth he, 



The Search 

"That the wisdom of fools may confound 

the great; 
Hence, though little my wit and empty 

my pate, 

Call back all the searchers and give me, I ask, 
Sole charge for three days of this 

sorrowful task. 
With my harp in my hand 
I will go through the land, 
For none will suspect a poor innocent 

harper 
Of mingling with music the tricks of a 

sharper. 

"Thou'rt a knave of good spirit, and now 

by St. Biddle, 

I give three days for the solving this riddle, 
And if on the third day at six by the dial 
Thou dost not appear, I will have up 

for trial 

These clowns, everyone, and if, by St. Rose, 
On the fourth thou'rt not here, like a 

parcel of crows 
They shall hang in the market e'er evening 

shall close." 
Thus answered the king, and the harper 

with speed 
Set forth on his search for the merrie 

king's steed. 



39 



CANTO VI. 

THE RETURN AND THE REWARD 




The Return Sf The Reward 

H, sweet was the breath 
of the morning, 
And blythe were 
the bird notes 
shrill, 

And light was the heart 
of the harper man 
As he trudged 
over moorland 
and hill. 
For he thought of the lass in the Scottish 

tower, 
And he thought of the tryst in the maiden's 

bower, 
He thought of Sir Charles and the 

promised gold, 

And Sir Roger's gift of a Scottish hold, 
All these, and the prize of the king beside 
And the golden ring which should bind 

his bride, 
And he hastened his steps toward Striv- 

ling towne 

For to win them all with the king's horse 
Browne. 

Lo! there, as he neared the paddock gate, 
He saw the hermit stand and wait, 
Soberly clad in cowl and hood, 
Telling his beads as good priest should; 
And, lo! in the paddock the steeds 
all three, 



The Harper & The King's Horse 

The roan and the colt and the horse. 

"Pardee! 

For to help my fellow I count no sin," 
Quoth the priest as he solemnly fastened 

them in. 

The harper bowed low as the priest 

passed by, 
And blessed the good man, with a tear 

in his eye. 
Then hastily mounting the king's horse 

Browne, 

He galloped away into Strivling towne. 
There sate Sir Charles and Sir Roger bold; 
One gave him the land, one paid him 

the gold. 
Right willingly paid they their wagers 

down, 
When they saw him gallop through 

Strivling towne. 

Then hied he straight to the Scottish tower, 
And kept his tryst in the maiden's bower. 
There touched he the harp strings, low 

and sweet, 
And the sound gave wings to the maiden's 

feet. 
"Now lass, don your mantle, and soft 

snood of grey, 



The Return fef The Reward 

And gather your kirtle. We '11 mount 

and away. 
Now Browne, goodly steed, be ye steady 

and fleet, 

For never before bore ye burden so sweet. 
I wot ne'er before bore ye burden so fair 
As my white rose, my lass, with her long 

braids of hair." 

O sweet was the breath of the evening wind 

And clear was the western sky, 
And bright were the stars, as they leaped 
in sight, 

And pale was the moon on high, 
And glad was the heart of the harper man 

As he called at the palace gate, 
"Up! Warder ho! Fling the portals wide! 
Will ye have the king's horse wait outside? 

Will ye have the king's horse wait?" 

Then loud was the shout in the courts 

below, 

And loud in the palace hall, 
And glad was the heart of the merrie king 

When he heard the harper call. 
O! the heart of the harper beat high 

and fast 

As he kneeled at the feet of the king at last, 
And pale was the face of the gentle 
maid 



The Harper fef The King's Horse 

As she listened the words which the 
harper said. 

"Nay! not for the gold, nor the land, my 

king, 
Have I risked my life," he cried, 

"But towed this lass, with a golden ring, 
Who standeth here at my side. 

For love of the light in her blue, blue eyes 

Would I win the estate, thy promised prize. 

For the smile on her lips, and the touch 
of her hand, 

I kneel at thy feet and beg the land. 
I stole the horse like a very thief, 
I rode him back like a lord, 
And now I ask that thou, like a king, 
Redeem thy promised word." 

"Thou'rt a doughty knave, 

And thy heart is brave!" 
Cried the king, with a burst of laughter, 

"And thus with my sword 

I create thee a lord- 
Sir Harper, forever after; 
And thine the estate forever shall be, 
For well hast thou won it, i' faith," 

cried he. 

So there was a feast at the court of the king, 
And the Harper and Lassie were wed 
with a ring. 



Here endeth The Harper and The King's 
Horse, A Tale by Payne Erskine. 
The illustrations were drawn by Sarah K. 
Smith and the designs are by Thomas 
Wood Stevens. Of this edition there have 
been printed and published by the Blue 
Sky Press, in Chicago, 111., five hundred 
copies on Van Gelder hand-made paper 
and twenty-five copies on Japan vellum, 
this being number